Friday, January 21, 2022

My Mother's family - John Nazareth

Eena Meena Deeka

The story of my mother’s family


My mother, Anne’s family story is one of music. Grandpa Antonio Matias Gomes had an orchestra and they used to travel around India playing in theatres in the time of the silent movies. At the turn of the 20th Century, he got a contract with the British to play in Theatres in Kuala Lumpur, Malaya. He was so enthralled with KL that he settled down there where most of his children were born. He is credited by the national music archives with being the first orchestra to bring Classical Music to Malaysia. Grandpa’s instrument of choice was the violin.

Mum’s father was not the only musician in the Gomes clan; at least another brother also had an orchestra and settled in KL. Another of his brothers Manuel Salvador had two sons Johnny and Joe Gomes who were well-known in the music scene in Bombay. They played in bands and composed music for Bollywood movies. This played a part in the stories I am about to tell you.

Let us go back to Uganda in 1962. This was my second year at an African Catholic boarding secondary school - St. Mary’s College Kisubi (SMACK) which was popular with Goans. It was also the year that Uganda got its independence from the UK. To celebrate Independence the school decided to host a Tattoo during which students from each tribe in school was asked to do a cultural dance around a huge campfire on the college sports field. Likewise, the Goan students were asked to put together some cultural dance. Only one problem – we were all young guys and we had no knowledge of any Goan cultural dance. None of us even knew a Konkani song!

To rescue came Tony Rodrigues, who was one of the seniors, then in Form 5. Tony was a musician and was well known for playing the accordion and singing. Tony told us about this new Hindi popular song he had heard – Eena, Meena, Deeka. It was the rage in Bombay as it was the lead song of a Hindi movie of the same name. Tony suggested that he would sing it, the rest of us could sing the chorus (“Rum, pum, po”) and dance the twist. The song even had the Konkani words “Maka, naka” in it together with “Tanganyika,” which made it seem bonafide. And that is what we did. Phew! We were embarrassed as hell, but it got us through the night. (The following year we learnt to dance a Mando for the 1963 Tattoo.)

Fast forward to 2010 – almost 50 years later, location – Mississauga Canada. I had recently come to know my first cousin Manuel Gomes – son of Joe Gomes – and he emailed me an article on

the Goan Musicians of Bombay written by Ashwin Panemangalore. I read through it and discovered to my amazement that my Uncle Johnny Gomes was the co-creator of “Eena Meena Deeka”! I immediately emailed Tony who was now a Professor in the University of Nairobi and sent him the article. He replied, “Indeed a small world”.

Nora Jones

One day while the family was at my sister Ruth’s place in 2008, I brought up the subject of Nora Jones’ music, which had become very popular in her native US. As we were talking about her, mum asked “Who is Nora Jones?” Trying to capture more than just her music, I said that she was Ravi Shankar’s love child. Mum goes “Ah! Ravi Shankar ……… I met him.” To which I added “Wha-a-a-t? You met Ravi Shankar? When?” She went on to say that she met him at her cousin, Johnny Gomes’ house in Bombay (Mumbai) in the 1950s before he became famous. Johnny and Joe (his brother) Gomes were well known in the music scene in Bombay. They were professional musicians. Ravi used to come to Uncle Johnny’s place to jam.

The Gomes music story is one that keeps on giving.

An Extract from my Memoirs in work.

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Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Goan successes in Uganda

 Uganda Goans

By Armand  Rodrigues


(A work in progress: If you can throw any light on the names or provide other achievers, please contact me on


To put things in perspective and to see things in proper context it is necessary to know how things were in the early years. The points below are by no means exhaustive, are in no sequence, and are just what I can recollect from my service with the Uganda Govt. from 1947 to 1968.

1) Thanks to the Portuguese, Goans gravitated towards a Western lifestyle, when it came to eating drinking, dressing, dancing and worshipping. Recognizing that English was the missing component that would earn them their bread and butter, they delved into English studies. The British knew the Goan well when they ruled India, and they were their preferred recruits, in the colonies too. In East Africa, they were considered to be the “backbone” of the Civil Service.

2) In East Africa, Goans were compartmentalized in the clerical ranks, from start to retirement, regardless of educational attainments. In other words, a University degree was of little benefit to a Goan. The highest he could reach was Chief Clerk. Executive class appointments were the preserve of the British.

3) It should be noted that Goan Civil Servants fell into two categories. Until the early 50s The earlier recruits were designated “Expatriates” and provided with housing and passages to and from Goa, on vacation leave, Others, employed later, were treated as “Locals” and did not have passage privileges. Later. even the “Expatriates” were deprived of passage (to Goa and back)  privileges.

4) The British had three pay scales: European, Asian and African, in descending order of compensation, supposedly based on the respective standards of living of each nationality. Goans accepted the modus operandi, as they felt that they were adequately remunerated and were able to enjoy a better standard of living than their counterparts outside East Africa. After all, the employer had the right to make their own rules, and we could not be choosers.

5) In 1952, the Government decided to admit some Asians into the Executive Class if they passed a written test. Eighty-three of us appeared for the test. Only four of us passed.  Nobby D’Souza and I were two Goans in the foursome. I was promoted to the rank of Executive Officer, a position traditionally held by a Britisher. Eventually, I was promoted to Senior Exec, Off and later to CEO.

6) Relevant to the discussion is the fact that the British Govt. recognized the “change of employer” status that Independence visited on the “expatriates” and had a compensation plan in mind. While Britishers were to be given 8,000 British Pounds each, Goan “expatriates” were slated to receive 4,000 each. Sadly, the three members of the Asian Civil Servants' Association, who were sent to England to consolidate the plan, failed to advance their case, ostensibly because of disagreement among themselves. The Britishers got 12,000 instead!

From the thirties to the fifties, some of the Goans who reached the apex were: P.C.S.C Nazareth, X.E. Almeida, J.M.S. Azavedo, M.F. Lobo, Antu Athaide, Amacinho Martyres, Leo Gama, Bruno Fernandes, Peter Pereira, Antu Rodrigues was the only one to be Administrative Officer in the early 1950s.


After Independence in 1962, Goans moved up quite rapidly in the Civil Service. Some of them were Alvaro Colaco, Ferdinand Rodrigues, Reggie Dias, Eleuterio Sequeira, Armand Rodrigues, Newton Carrasco, Willie Castelino,

In the business world, we had : ENTEBBE: Figueiredos (store), Souza Noronha (store) Antonio Lobo (baker), X.R. Fernandes (tailor), Honorato D'Souza (store), Caetano D'Souza (bar).

 KAMPALA: Norman Godinho (school, hostel, hotel, cinema), Henry Souza Figueiredo (store), R. Almeida (soda), Peter Paul (bar), L. Flores (grocer), C.M. Gomes (tailor), ? Fernandes (bakery).

JINJA: ? Fernandes (bakery), Menezes (bicycles), George Bros. (grocery).

MITYANA: Braganza (store), ? Fernandes (tailor) , MBARARA : Braganza (bar & store):

KABALE: Carvalho Bros. (store/gas station), SOROTI: R. D'Souza (bakery):

MASAKA: Hector Luna (store/bar); L. Pereira (store).



Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Kenya: a state of fear



Posted on December 18, 2013 by Makozewe 16 comments

Kenya: Behind the Façade of the Ideal State a Rule of Fear

Last weekend’s attempted military coup in Kenya shocked most people who have come to regard it as a stable African country. CYPRIAN FERNANDES, a Herald journalist who was born in Nairobi and left Kenya in 1973 recalls that political division was deeply entrenched at independence in 1963 and it was only Kenyatta’s power that stopped it surfacing.

JOMO Kenyatta, Kenya’s first President who died in 1978, was all powerful, ruthless and ruled with fear. For over 13 years as a journalist in Kenya, my family and I lived with that fear — fear of detention without trial, deportation or the plain fear of death, if I did not toe the Kenyatta line.

It was this fear that was injected into every sphere of life that enabled Kenyatta to maintain the façade of Kenya being the epitome of the ideal African State; stable, democratic and moderately prosperous.

The key to survival in Kenya was the many things one didn’t do:
• Don’t criticize Kenyatta and all things Kenyatta in private and especially not in public.
• Don’t laugh at Kenyatta, crack anti-Kenyatta jokes, lampoon Kenyatta in political satire, in jest, or in any way that would make a monkey out of him.
• Don’t write or say anything that might displease Kenyatta.

As several foreign journalists were to find out in the 1960s the price of any criticism was a quick plane out of Kenya. Why did everyone in Kenya fear the man? Everyone knew what the Mau Mau had done during the emergency of the 1950s. Kenyatta’s role in the movement was well-known but never proven, and so the psychology and the terror of his past reputation were enough to frighten even those who had remained in the Mau Mau after independence in 1963.

Soon after the first batch of deportations and detentions in 1964 and 1965, the two local dailies, The East African Standard and the Daily Nation, adopted a form of self-censorship until proper channels which were often headed by the present Minister for Constitutional Affairs, Charles Njonjo, reflected Kenyatta thinking. He vetted editorial copy on anything from international reports to a local tribal killing — anything that might even slightly embarrass Kenyatta.

I was fortunate enough to have grown up with the ministers in office then. As Chief Reporter on the Daily Nation, I also travelled with most ministers to international conferences all over the world. At least on one occasion, I was not able to write the full story, because I knew what the consequences would be.

At the CHOGM summit in Singapore in 1970, a brilliant procedural manoeuvre by the British Foreign Minister, Sir Alec Douglas-Home, quashed what had looked, potentially at least, like an African uprising over the British arms sales to South Africa.

Daniel Arap Moi, Kenya’s current president, then Vice-President, was leading the delegation, but he knew very little about the issue and would have been quite useless (as it proved, since he made little comment) at the family talk-in suggested by Douglas-Home, knowing full well that most African heads of delegations would be silent without foreign ministers and advisers.

At a poolside meeting it was agreed by the Kenya team that Moi would feign illness and the Foreign Minister would take his place. Charles Njonjo, who was Kenyatta’s right-hand man at the time, had other ideas.

Njonjo said then: “I don’t know why you people (the Kenya delegation) are bothering with all this. If it was up to me, I would open diplomatic relations with South Africa tomorrow.” There was a silence that was almost deathly. In the context of African politics, this was the worst kind of blasphemy.

The next morning the Foreign Minister who had spearheaded the anti-arms sales campaign through the Organization for African Unity, the non-aligned nations summit meeting and the UN, breakfasted early and was rearing to go to present his case at the talk-in.

Sometime during the night, Moi had had his mind changed. The minister was standing in the lobby of the Ming Court hotel when Moi swept past him on his way to the meeting. The anti-arms sale campaign which had threatened to split the Commonwealth was not silenced at the conference table; it was killed dead in that lobby that morning.

I mentioned it to my editor and he suggested that I best forget what I had heard, since Njonjo reflected Kenyatta’s thinking; this was very dangerous for both of us.

With the press silent, only two other elements threatened Kenyatta: the Kenya People’s Union which was led by the Luo leader, Oginga Odinga, and university students and their academic seniors. Odinga, who represents the second largest of Kenya’s 150-plus tribes, was detained at the first opportunity along with other officers of the party and the party summarily banned. Students who took to the streets were bashed silent by the para-military unit, the General Service Unit, whose members hit first and never stop to question, just silence their victim. The academics were easily frightened into submission.

This then was Moi’s inheritance when he was elected to the presidency after Kenyatta’s death in 1978. At first it looked good, Moi repealed the dreaded detention without trial. But he was always insecure. He knew that he was allowed the presidency only because in-fighting within the Kikuyu had failed to produce a leader. Besides, when Kenyatta was alive, the question of a successor was never raised; he didn’t like it. Moi was going to be the man for convenience.

News-generation Kenyans were coming of age and the academics who had remained silent now asked for a more democratic Kenya, rather than the autocratic path that Moi was taking to ensure his own position. If Kenyatta did it why couldn’t Moi? So he ,too took to detaining without trial and hence the attempted military coup.

Life, in Kenya, is not going to get any better. For some, it will get worse. Now that it has had its façade blown away, foreign investors will start thinking twice. The depressed state of the world market will continue to pose its economy problems. Moi will not be in a position to appease the mass of the people with any instant solutions. The attempted coup will spur others to question, where once they had stood silent. Those in power will find it harder to remain in power. Moi himself could as well have an assassin’s bullet aimed at him right now.

The ideal looked so good. The reality was a different matter, but until African politicians learn to lose (gracefully), the situation will be no different from anywhere else in Africa.

The Sydney Morning Herald – Wednesday, August 4, 1982 (Page 7)


Sunday, January 9, 2022

Islamic mosques/cathedrals of Cordoba, Spain

I have been meaning to share this with your all for a very long time ... details are scarce! I have been blessed enough to have visited virtually every country in Europe.


Once conquered by Arabs, what remains to a large degree in Spain are the mosques, not in their original pristine conditions because, instead of destroying all of them, many wear the stone and marble robes of Catholic cathedrals and other places of worship.

The Mezquita Mosque built inside the original Grand Mosque

Mesquita ceiling in the Cathedral/Mosque

Islamic architecture in Cordoba Spain

Roman Bridge 

Saturday, January 8, 2022


Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Bachelors and Spinsters Ball way back at the Nairobi City Hall.

 How could I have forgotten ... I organised this Batchelors and Spinsters Ball at the Nairobi Hall ... most of it from a sick hospital bed with a lot of help from Loy DeSouza. There were four bands including the Bata Shoe Shine Boys, Inspector Gideon and the Police Band, the names of the Goan bands escapes me. I made Savio Jacques the chairman of the fund raising committee and the whole thing was a huge success.

Friday, December 31, 2021

All the babies will be brown

The Limits of the World: A Novel  by Jennifer Acker (Goodreads Author)

3.42 · Rating details · 268 ratings · 47 reviews


The Chandaria family—emigrants from the Indian-enclave of Nairobi—have managed to flourish in America. Premchand, the father, is a doctor who has worked doggedly to grow his practice and give his family security; his wife, Urmila, runs a business importing artisanal Kenyan crafts; and their son, Sunil, after quitting the pre- med track, has gotten accepted to a PhD program in philosophy at Harvard. But the parents have kept a very important secret from Sunil: his cousin, Bimal, is actually his older brother. And when this previously hidden history is revealed by an unforeseen accident, and the entire family is forced to return to Nairobi, Sunil reveals his own well-kept, explosive secret: his Jewish-American girlfriend, who has accompanied him to Kenya, is, in fact, already his wife. Spanning four generations and three continents, The Limits of the World illuminates the vast mosaic of cultural divisions and ethical considerations that shape the ways in which we judge one

another’s actions. A dazzling debut novel—written with rare empathy and insight—it is a powerful depiction of how we prevent ourselves, unwittingly and otherwise, from understanding the people we are closest to.

In the 1960's and 1970's, an exodus of Asians took place from East Africa. While they wished the newly independent countries - Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania- success and prosperity, many Asians felt that the future for them and their children was likely to be fraught with problems if they stayed put in Kenya. Besides the policy of "Africanisation", many Asians questioned whether there was a future for their children. 

The expulsion of Asians from Uganda  by the monster Idi Amin was perhaps the biggest single factor that made Asians feel that it was time to find a more permanent home and future for their families. The vast majority opted for Great Britain because their British passports entitled them to settle in Britain. Those who did not qualify to enter Britain (and some who did) applied in thousands to emigrate to the U.S.A., Canada, Australia and a handful of other countries. 

I don't have the exact figures but I would estimate that between 1960 and 1975, well over a million displaced Asians put down roots in countries all over the globe. Each of our stories is different; my family owes its presence in Southern Alberta to a farming couple from Cardston, now deceased but forever remembered with gratitude and love.

That this exodus and resettlement was achieved relatively smoothly and peacefully is greatly to the credit of not only the receiving countries but also to the fact that most Asians became productive members of their countries almost immediately. Very few claimed unemployment benefits. Whether it is their business acumen, education, industry, their financial resources or whatever, within fifty years of the exodus, Asians, particularly Indians have done very well financially and their children have taken advantage of educational opportunities to become qualified professionals in every sector of the workforce. During the present pandemic, for example, it was easily apparent how many of the  medical experts and spokesmen were of Asian origin.

By and large, the first generation of Asians was conservative and keen to remain true to their cultural roots. Most recognized, however, that as time went by, their sons and daughters, and even more so their grandchildren would become more liberal and pragmatic in adopting the mores of the pluralistic society that they were living in. Several writers have tried to capture the pressures that have been placed on emigrants, steeped in centuries of their own culture, having to adapt to a new world, a world often not sympathetic to foreign customs, attire or beliefs.

It is in this context that I read an excerpt from Jennifer Acker's recently published book, "The Limits of the World". This was the excerpt sent to me by a niece:

Anyone who is familiar with Jennifer Acker's  and Sunil's world is likely to be intrigued by this unlikely couple if only because couples like them are becoming increasingly part of our landscape. I certainly enjoyed the excerpt to the point that I immediately ordered a copy from Amazon and was promised delivery by mid-January. I have given some more details of the book in the attachment if you are interested. To those of you who are not interested in this topic, my apologies for the length of this introduction.



My Mother's family - John Nazareth

Eena Meena Deeka The story of my mother’s family By JOHN NAZARETH My mother, Anne’s family story is one of music. Grandpa Antonio Matias Gom...